Phoenix workers are rallying for the Raise the Wage Act for $ 15 an hour

A small group of about a dozen people gathered in the parking lot behind Sen. Kyrsten Sinema’s Phoenix office Monday to demand a minimum wage of $ 15 an hour for all Arizona workers.

Several gave speeches and sang during the event to share their personal stories as business owners or tipped workers and why they support raising minimum and minimum wages in Arizona, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I hosted (Tuesday) and went home with $ 4. I went home and cried myself to sleep,” said Haley Holland, who works in the Phoenix restaurant business and is a new organizer for One Fair Wage. She said that since the pandemic she cherishes, tips have been cut in half due to closings, restrictions and attitudes to masks.

The Phoenix rally was one of several events across the country to celebrate the wage increase law passed by House and Senate Democrats on Jan. 26 as part of the Biden government’s COVID-19 relief plan of $ 1.9 trillion was introduced.

Protesters from groups such as One Fair Wage, Living United for Change in Arizona, Jews for Justice in Arizona, business owners and workers at the Phoenix rally said the COVID-19 pandemic had tightened treatment for minimum wage and tip workers.

Holland said it was difficult to make $ 9 an hour and not receive tips when asking customers to wear masks in restaurants due to COVID-19 requirements. When she asks customers to put on their mask, Holland said that sometimes it does not result in tips.

Masks also make serving and hosting difficult because people can’t see their faces, she said. Holland and others at the rally emphasized that working for tips can also create an uncomfortable environment for women who are sometimes harassed by customers.

“It accepts cruel behavior, it accepts risking my life and hoping that I will get a livable wage and that I will get enough money to live and keep paying my bills that day,” said Holland.

Arizona’s current minimum wage is $ 12.15 an hour

Haley Holland (right), a One Fair Wage organizer, sits with others outside Senator Kyrsten Sinema's Phoenix office during a rally in support of the Wage Increase Act, which would raise the federal minimum wage to $ 15 an hour.  on February 8, 2021.

The current federal minimum wage is $ 7.25 and the federal minimum wage for tipped workers is $ 2.13, although several cities and states have voted to gradually increase their minimum wage to $ 15 in recent years.

Currently, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 29 states have minimum wages that are above federal requirements.

Arizona’s minimum wage, which has risen four times in the past four years and is one of the highest in the country, rose 15 cents this year to $ 12.15 an hour. Employers can tip servers and other workers up to $ 3 an hour less than the minimum wage if the tip income makes at least the difference.

Some cities have introduced higher minimums, including Flagstaff, where the minimum increased from $ 13 an hour in 2020 to $ 15 in January.

A federal minimum wage hike has not passed in more than 10 years, and a federal hike for tipped workers has not increased since 1991. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, nearly 2% of hourly workers, or 1.6 million workers, were at or below the federal minimum wage in 2019.

Under the Wage Increase Act, the federal minimum wage would gradually increase to $ 15 an hour through 2025. Wages for tipped workers would also rise to $ 15 by 2027, guaranteeing $ 15 an hour for all workers, including those currently earning a minimum wage, such as youth workers and workers with disabilities, according to the Education and Labor Committee.

Congress has tried to raise the federal minimum wage for the past decade, but nothing has passed. The law to increase wages was passed by the House in 2019, but not by the Senate.

Opponents of a minimum wage increase say it could harm small businesses and force them to lay off employees.

President Joe Biden recently said his proposal to raise the federal minimum wage to $ 15 an hour is unlikely to make it into the final COVID-19 aid package of $ 1.9 trillion after negotiating with Congress.

Small business owner: “I know what the fight was like and how it doesn’t feel worthy enough.”

Jessica Bueno, owner of Xanadu Coffee, speaks outside Senator Kyrsten Sinema's Phoenix office on February 8, 2021 during a rally in support of the Wage Increase Act, which aims to raise the federal minimum wage to $ 15 an hour.

At around 10:30 am, the Phoenix rally was shown on a live stream of the national event, which was broadcast on the Service Employees International Union’s Facebook page in collaboration with One Fair Wage and the Poor People’s Campaign.

Other cities that held rallies in the United States were Washington DC, Denver, San Francisco, Chicago, and New York.

Jessica Bueno, co-owner of Xanadu Coffee Co. in Phoenix, attended the rally to support a $ 15 minimum wage and pressure others to support the act, she said.

“It is time we press Congress to make that decision,” she said. “As an employer and worker who have spent most of my career in the service industry, I know what the struggle was like and how it felt not worthy enough.”

Bueno said her cafe already pays their baristas a starting wage of $ 15 an hour, but understands that this is not a liveable wage in Phoenix.

“I really value our employees and I value the skills of hotel professionals. I think it is time to pay and respect them, especially during this pandemic.”

Bueno and Holland said that raising the minimum wage is not just about money, it’s about investing in and taking care of employees.

“As an employer, I am ready to make this investment in my employees,” said Bueno. “I know if I show them I care, in return they will take care of my business, they will take care of my product. It’s more of a collaborative effort and so I want to make sure they know they are valued and part of it are the family. ”

You can reach the reporter at [email protected] or on Twitter at @ Audreyj101.

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